B.C. Environment Minister ‘silent’ on incineration ban: FVRD

CHILLIWACK - A pitch to promote new provincial packaging standards brings a renewed call for a moratorium on Vancouver incineration plans.

A pitch to promote new provincial packaging standards brought a renewed call for a moratorium on Vancouver’s incineration plans by the Fraser Valley Regional District.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman called the environment ministry’s Packaging and Printed Paper (PPP) stewardship program presented to the FVRD board Tuesday a “great concept” to improve waste recycling in B.C.

But in the same breath Banman noted the B.C. government is allowing Metro Vancouver to burn “residual” wastes that can’t be recycled in proposed waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities, which the FVRD insists threatens air quality in the Fraser Valley.

“We live in an obviously sensitive airshed, and we’re the food basket for Vancouver,” Banman said, after the Tuesday meeting.

“Does Vancouver really want to be eating this stuff they propose (incinerating) going up in the air?” he asked.

Metro Vancouver appears to be pushing ahead with plans to build a WTE facility, which would deal with the region’s ever-growing waste disposal woes and also produce energy for sale.

New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey and the Tsawwassen First Nation are all reportedly interested in becoming sites for an incineration plant, although no WTE proposal has yet been approved.

But Banman said Metro Vancouver is pushing ahead with its WTE plans, issuing a request for proposals without consulting the FVRD board, as directed by Environment Minister Terry Lake when he approved MV’s waste management strategy last July.

Banman said the minister is now asking the FVRD to join its new packaging program by enforcing bans at municipal landfills, yet he is “silent” when it comes to a ban on incineration in the Fraser Valley.

“Once you start feeding that (WTE) monster, it’s going to be hard to stop,” Banman warned, because of the profit energy sales will bring to the company that gets the contract to build the facility.

And some clean fuel will always be needed to feed the fire at incineration plants, added Sharon Gaetz, FVRD chairperson and Chilliwack Mayor.

“We don’t want to see recyclables diverted to fuel the behemoth,” she said.

Experts disagree on the safety of WTE technology, in terms of nanoparticles slipping through emission scrubbers and impacting human health.

But Patricia Ross, head of the FVRD’s air quality committee, said the Fraser Valley is no place to experiment.

“You don’t experiment in one of the most sensitive airsheds in the world,” she said.

“The provincial government is not realizing we don’t yet have the regulatory framework to properly monitor and enforce” emission standards at WTE sites, she said.

Banman told directors that he pressed Lake about the FVRD’s consultation concerns at a recent budget meeting in Victoria.

“He didn’t care for me very much,” Banman said, about his meeting with Lake.

The minister said he would “ensure” Metro Vancouver consulted with the FVRD before going ahead with WTE, Banman reported, but he also wanted the FVRD to be “open” to Metro Vancouver’s views.

“I kept lobbing the ball back into his court,” Banman said. “He got the message that we’re not fooling around.”

A motion to forward Banman’s and other directors’ comments about incineration and the lack of consultation to the environment minister was unanimously approved by the FVRD board.

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